Family and Religion

by Mike Austin

Many parents seek to influence the religious and moral values of their children, and rightly so. Some go too far, but others not far enough. I have a few thoughts to share on these issues with respect to the religious upbringing of children.

First, it seems to me that parents cannot help influencing the religious views (or lack thereof) of their kids. Parents who take their children to church, synagogue, or mosque and parents who do not are influencing the religious views of their children. Those who take their religious faith seriously are communicating by both word and deed certain views about the role of religion. Those parents who are not religious do the same, whether they want to or not.

Second, I don’t think that parents should take an entirely hands-off approach to the religious upbringing of children. Many think that religion is like clothing or food. Find what fits you, and stick to it. When it no longer suits you, abandon it.  And when this is applied in the family, parents may take a hands-off approach with their kids so that their kids can find the faith that “suits them”.  Such a view neglects an important fact: religious faith calls for a commitment that may cut against the grain of one’s preferences. A choice between Judaism and Buddhism is not the same as a choice between chocolate and vanilla…


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